Gamesmasters, no excuses, run your games

An article in which I rant at you for making excuses as to why you won’t run whatever game it is you’re running as the gamemaster. You have no excuse. You can always choose to run. Life can get in the way at times, but most excuses gamesmasters make just don’t hold up to the harsh light of a torch in conjunction with a zone of truth.

But I haven’t prepped enough! 

Nonsense. You don’t need to do any prep to run a good game and it’s likely you at least have something to work with. Shit, I’ve run an entire weekly campaign for the best part of a year with literally zero prep beyond a couple of badly put together hex maps. The players still say it was one of the best campaigns they played in. That isn’t to toot my own horn like I was some master GM, just that often the definition of a good game is one that A: Occurs regularly and B: Uses a rules set, like D&D, which everyone in the group already enjoys playing.

You just need to have a firm grasp of the principle of ‘yes and’ and a basic knowledge of how the rules work. Worried you can’t think of anything? Throw a combat at the players, you’ll burn some time, everybody loves combat and killing stuff and its likely something will happen you can use to progress the story forward.

There’s also about a billion random generators out there on the internet that let you create everything from adventures, quests, dungeons, monsters. There’s never a lack of material to use. Just a lack of courage on your part.

You can also cheat like you’re motherfucking Kaiser Soze. I once run a session, in the aforementioned ‘best campaign ever’, where I had no clue how to describe an inn the players found themselves in, so I  just described a picture of an Inn that was on one of my rulebooks. I’d recently watched ‘The Mist’ and the rest of the session was basically the plot from that. Nobody noticed, or cared enough to point it out.

But I don’t feel like it! 

Nonsense. You’ll feel like it when you start doing. Some days can be difficult, life and emotions can be tricky to deal with. If there’s really some reason in your wider life you can’t run your game,  then perhaps fair enough. However  if you’re just worried it  will suck, or it won’t be fun, or you don’t feel in the mood to do it then you would do best to challenge those feelings and run the game anyway rather than becoming their victim, dropping out and disappointing the people you said you’d run a game for.

Honestly speaking I often don’t feel like running a game. I sometimes fear I haven’t done enough, or it will suck, or it’s just been a bad day.  I didn’t feel like running for the group I had this Saturday, I’m worrying I won’t be up to running for my group tomorrow. I still ran my game Saturday like a boss and you can bet come hell or high water I’ll be running my game tomorrow because I know I can and I know my feelings do not own me.  I’ve been running my current Wednesday group for over a year now and I legitimately cannot think of a single game I’ve ever bailed out on.

But a player dropped out!

This is about the worst reason to not run a game invented. Unless you’re literally down to one or two players in the group you can always run the game. Just adjust whatever you’ve designed to fit and focus the game more on those individual characters and their goals than the wider group goals.

Think about it, if you’re really of the attitude that all 4+ members of your group all HAVE to be there every week or you cannot play then you’ll never get a game if you are playing with anyone who has any form of a life outside of the game. People not being able to turn up to some sessions is perfectly reasonable and never a good reason not to make the game go on.

But I’m new! 

Who cares? Everyone was new once and it’s few players who have the cajones to actually run a game in the first place. You’ll learn as you go with your group and if your group aren’t forgiving enough to let you make a mistake or two along the way then they’re probably not worth playing with. If you’re really in doubt, pick up and run a module, which is solid advice for all new players anyway as it gives you a huge amount of structure and you can just focus on running the game.

But my players will hate it!

The sad truth is that often your players aren’t really there in a sense to play whatever thing you’ve been bleeding over. They’re at your table to play D&D, or Shadowrun, or GURPS or whatever else. They’re at your table to hang out with friends, roll dice, drink beer, sneak past dragons, collect loot, explore dungeons, hack mainframes, fly airships , shoot mutants or anything else that your particular system of choice does best.  You are integral to the experience but I give you permission to sit back, breath and let the system bear a large weight of the load for you. Unless you’re *literally* that guy it’s difficult to actually run a bad game and good enough is often more than enough for most players.

You’re not expected to be a professional actor, a one-man show, or one of the Chris Perkins or Matt Mercer’s of the world,  you’re just being asked to run the game and there’s no reason in the world you cannot do that.



Categories: RPG game master advice

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